Channel Marketing Conduit: Apple just gave iPhone buyers the gift of a rockin’ U2 album.

u2_apple_bono_tim_cook_2014_l (1)2 weeks ago Apple paid U2 $100 million and distributed their new album Songs of Innocence to 500 million people – for FREE!

Of course, a bold marketing move from one of the most powerful companies on the planet is bound to attract some criticism. Everyone in the marketing world has an opinion, and those opinions regarding Apple’s strategy range from it being a huge debacle to a stroke of marketing genius.

Let’s be clear, Apple got everything it wanted out of this deal; an enhanced image, increased branding, positioning in the market, a greater global reach, and most importantly, hype. Looking to launch and sell its new products, the iPhone 6 & Apple Watch, Apple and its CEO, Tim Cook, wanted to ensure that everyone was still talking about Apple, no matter how successful or unsuccessful the new product ended up being. After all, the Apple Watch hasn’t generated the type of social conversation that Apple’s been hoping for, certainly not in the same way that Songs of Innocence landing in people’s iTunes accounts probably has.  What’s more, how many millions of people now have a better understanding of Apple’s iCloud technology? Although most of the Move the Channel audience is very familiar with the power of the cloud, there is still much educating and an album magically appearing on your phone is doing that.   It seems that Apple is getting their money’s worth right there.

As someone who designs Channel Incentive Programs, I often apply the same principles of loyalty and persuasion that Apple utilized during its campaign in order to inspire MY customers and Move the Channel. The concept behind these principles comes from a book I read, The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

For example, one of the proven principles espoused by Cialdini is the Principle of Reciprocity. It’s that feeling that we ought to give back to those who have given to us.  To activate loyalty and the power of Reciprocity the reward must be meaningful, customized, and unexpected.  Apple’s actions enough to trigger sentiments of reciprocity in its customers?

On top of all of the other benefits of the campaign, we have to acknowledge that this was meaningful to most, customized not-so-much, but certainly an unexpected REWARD, especially for fans of U2. But even if you don’t care for the band, or even rock n’ roll, my guess is that you still might appreciate the gesture and enjoy being part of the worldwide conversation.music2

Or should Apple have just given cash or an iTunes discount? Would that have been a more successful marketing ploy? I certainly don’t think so. What would Apple have received from this type of reward? I have to imagine that a few extra dollars in your account would not have the same impact as a free album that you could listen to over and over again. Now, every time a customer sees Songs of Innocence in their library, or hears it on their iPod, they will probably think back to when Apple gave it away to them as a reward for their continued loyalty.

As most of you in the Move the Channel community know, there is an ongoing debate about what is the right reward or incentive when it comes to engaging and growing mindshare in your channel.   The fact is that a meaningful, customized, and sometimes unexpected reward is something that can trigger the powerful Principle of Reciprocity, lead to increased loyalty, and impact future buying behaviors.

Apple had a difficult challenge coming up with a reward for its millions of diverse customers. Fortunately for those of us in Channel Marketing, our audience is much more focused, making it that much easier to engage, communicate with, and reward them when the time is right.

Should YOU be rewarding YOUR Channel Partners for their loyalty too?

As always, please send me a an email with questions or comment.

Move the Channel,


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